Camdenton baseball delivers win over Eldon for first season debut in two years

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Camdenton senior Cesar Chaparro looks to connect on a pitch in the home and season opener against Eldon on March 19. Chaparro led the Lakers with four RBIs on the day.

Camdenton baseball coach Bryce Durnin has not forgotten what the atmosphere was once like in his program’s own ballpark. 

Before the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, his program was a district champion playing in a sectional state playoff game against Glendale with a state quarterfinal appearance on the line. Little did the Lakers know at the time that it would be their final baseball game in two years with the pandemic cancelling all of spring sports in 2020.

Well, it seems there was not too much rust on the program after such a long absence as junior pitcher Mitch Orozco went six innings on the mound, senior Cesar Chaparro delivered four RBIs at the plate and Camdenton earned an 11-4 win over Lake area neighbor Eldon Friday night in the home and season opener. 

“We never take any game for granted. Eldon always plays us tough every year and we respect that program and Coach (Chad) Hinds,” Camdenton coach Bryce Durnin said of the matchup. “It is always a good game and just glad to come out on the top end. The last time we played here, this place was rocking and it was a good season. Great bunch of kids and hey, just trying to build the same type of atmosphere and get ourselves back to that (state playoff) game.”

As well as things went for Camdenton, it was the Mustangs who went to work early, securing a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Freshman Hunter Hees hit a double to put runners in scoring position and junior Ben Cline was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to earn an RBI and make it 1-0. Moments later, senior Ian Birdno smacked in two runs with a double of his own to put Eldon up 3-0 early in the first. 

The lead was short-lived, though, as the Lakers settled in with their bats in the second. Senior Brendan Weaver drove in the first Laker run of the season with an RBI-double, junior Evan Farris scored on a wild pitch and Chaparro drew a walk for his first RBI to tie the game at 3. Eldon would not score again until the seventh as Birdno scored on an error from a pickoff attempt.

“I told them I think we were all dug in, myself included. Just asking for things as opposed to letting the game come to us a little bit,” Durnin said of his team’s start. “Hanging on every pitch and every play, we needed to chill out a little bit. Conner Miller is really the only kid who has played varsity so we are young and have nothing to lose and we need to play like that. 

“Just a little tight there and we loosens up and got looser. Brendan getting that hit broke the ice for us to get us on the board and from that point, I just felt like we were in a better place.” 

Camdenton captured the lead for good in the fourth inning on an RBI single from Chaparro, who added another pair of RBIs on a double in the fifth.

“Especially the home opener and being in front of our hometown, four RBIs is something great,” Chaparro said of his day. 

“I felt like the whole team came out being aggressive. We started out slow first inning and we had our ups and downs, but we started getting the bats rolling.” 

The senior’s bat is one Durnin will be glad to have in the lineup this season and Durnin said it is more than his bat the program can find to be useful.

“He is just someone who is a good leader. Besides the performance he put up today, he is just a good kid to be a fan of,” he noted. “Happy for him, happy for the game he head and happy he was able to come out here and just lead us to a victory.”

The Lakers settled in some more in the fifth with a groundout RBI from Weaver, an RBI single from senior Riley Carpenter and an RBI single from sophomore Kam Durnin in addition to Chaparro’s final pair of RBIs. Camdenton wrapped things up offensively in the sixth with an RBI walk from junior Landon Thomas and sacrifice fly RBI from Durnin. 

Eldon senior pitcher Fisher Snelling went four innings for the Mustangs, allowing five runs on four hits and walks while throwing five strikeouts.

“He came out well in the first inning and ran into a little trouble in the second, but he is the type of guy where it takes him two innings to really get going. His pitch count got up there and we had to take him out just due to not wanting to hurt him the first game of the year,” Eldon coach Chad Hinds said of his starting pitcher. “It is only the first game and a lot of baseball left. He went out and competed well, just have to learn to throw to hitters and let your defense work. He did that later on in the game and it worked out for him.”

Hinds trotted out a trio of pitchers in the final few innings in relief to let them  get their first varsity action of the season. Sophomore Kasen Bashore, freshman Jacob Bishop and junior Dallas Hardy closed things out as the team collectively allowed 11 hits and gave 12 walks overall while striking out six. The skipper said pitching will be need to be a key area of growth this season amongst his young squad.

“We have a lot of young guys that don’t have that varsity experience, especially pithing-wise. That is something we have to build on and work on and these guys work hard and want to compete so I think we’ll get there,” the coach noted. “It is not how you start, it is how you finish. 

“With their hard work ethic and the way they want to compete, they’ll do it. Got to build them to get there.” 

It was a solid day for Orozco who allowed just three hits and runs with a pair of walks while striking out six in his six innings on the mound for Camdenton. Freshman Kade Durnin pitched the final inning and recorded a trio of strikeouts.

“Getting out on the mound and being able to throw a good game felt great,” Orozco said, also noting that he just told himself to just slow down after some first inning jitters and also made sure to give thanks to Miller for his diving catch to record an out in the third.

“Curve ball was working really well and  they were all crowding the plate so I figured if they’re crowding the plate I might as well throw it over the middle with a curve… After the first inning I felt like I was throwing a pretty good game.”

The head coach said Orozco will be part of a junior trio on the pitching staff the team will rely on this season and was planning to rely on last season.

“I think they are very competitive and are going to give us a chance every game, especially if he (Orozco) can get himself like he did today into that fifth and sixth (inning), because I think we have guys on the backend that can at least keep us competitive to the end. Mitch is jus part of that formula for us,” Durnin said. “We will ride the backs of these three junior pitchers and see where the chips fall.”

Chaparro, for one, was glad to have Orozco out on the mound.

“He has not pitched a game in quite a while and him being able to come out here and deal six innings like that and be lights out is amazing and something we are going to need throughout the season,” the senior said.

Both Camdenton (1-0) and Eldon (0-1) are scheduled to play in doubleheaders on Saturday. The Lakers host Blair Oaks and St. Elizabeth, starting at 10 a.m., and the Mustangs will welcome Linn and Eugene starting at 11 a.m.

“It is nice to be back. Last year being off hurt everyone and else and hurt us, just getting some guys experience,” Hinds said of the return from the pandemic. “We are a pretty young ball club and have six new guys who have never played varsity before. To be back out here is a blessing and it is nice. Win or lose, as of right now it is nice to be back out here and see guys competing, working and playing.

“Playing three games the early is nice to see different kids play the game and see what they got.”

Chaparro will certainly be soaking in every moment with his team this year.

“It means everything in the world. I love baseball, love the game and love being out here on the field and being with all the guys. It is something special about this sport that makes me want to come out here every day and do it.” the senior stated. 

Looking at the big picture, Durnin said there are a lot of moving parts within his club, just like that district championship team two years ago who figured it out by the end of the year. As long as his team kept focus and continues to play loose, he is hoping to see a similar outcome.

“We started off with several moving parts, positive attitudes and just people wanting to win. As long as they stick with that, I think we should at least be competitive and put ourselves in a position to win the game most of the time,” the coach said.

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132